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Prosecutors Charge 16 with Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor - 2002-06-26

Prosecutors have charged two Indonesian military officers and 14 others with crimes against humanity for their part in a wave of killing and destruction in East Timor. Prosecutors say the indictments will help prove if senior officers helped orchestrate the chaos surrounding East Timor's break from Indonesia in 1999. The prosecutor at the Dili District Court charges that the 14 suspects were involved in 70 murders and four rapes in East Timor in 1999. One suspect, a member of the Indonesian military intelligence, is charged with killing an East Timorese employee of the United Nations. Another suspect, a lieutenant in the Indonesian military, is thought to have been present at that and one other murder. Human rights groups say hundreds of people were killed when militia groups went on a two-week rampage through East Timor in 1999, as the territory was voting for independence from Indonesia. United Nations prosecutors in East Timor have indicted at least 50 people suspected of being involved in the violence. Some of the suspects are low-ranking members of the Indonesian military, known as the TNI. "That investigation, just in broad terms, means taking all of these district investigations and lifting it to the next level of responsibility," said Stuart Alford, of the U.N. Serious Crimes Unit. "Part of those investigations is to make the link between the TNI and the militia groups." Mr. Alford said investigators hope to use evidence gathered against militia members to prove whether high-ranking Indonesian officials helped in the destruction of East Timor. "From there we move up to the regional militia commanders, and we then would also like to include the regional military commanders from the TNI and also from the civilian authorities," he added. East Timor and Indonesia are running parallel investigations into the destruction of East Timor. But human rights groups question whether either inquiry will bring to justice any high-ranking Indonesian officials allegedly involved in the violence.